Headless three string building and playing. What I learned.

I'm relatively new to the whole cbg world. I caught the bug last fall, and this is my sixth build. I worked my way from a simple parts kit supplied with a cigar box, add your own neck, to a paint can lid reso kit, followed by a fretless and two more conventional builds. For three of the five I used delta buckers, and for number five, scratch built the mahogany box body. Along the way I learned about neck profiling and action height, and the science of bridges and nuts. 

I played number five a lot, and I’m actually learning how to play halfway decent, considering I started playing when I built the first one. One thing I found a bit frustrating was stability with a light, small bodied guitar. I don’t particularly like being harnessed into a strap, especially when seated, but the small cbg box body isn’t exactly ergonomic. I was always aware of splitting my attention between maintaining proper position, keeping the neck from dipping, while chasing frets and chord shapes. Late one evening I began looking at headless designs. I really didn’t like all the junk of a straight pull tuner system, and I’m not a fan of a hardtail bridge for acoustic design. It deadens the soundboard too much for my liking. So I thought about ways to incorporate headless and acoustic, while not cluttering  it all up with gobs of hardware. I reasoned that a roller tailpiece would allow the tuning gear to go inside the box, managing strings around corners,  and eventually settled on using off the shelf sealed gear tuners, and small ball hearing V pulleys to direct the strings as well as to create the roller tailpiece. Arranging the tuning heads side by side, the string pegs toward the tail, tuning knobs toward the back, all of the gear in “box within box” to isolate the hardware outside the acoustic chamber, yet within the perimeter of the box structure. Using 1/4x2 1/2 poplar for box sides gave me enough room inside the box for the hardware. Red cedar top and back and a hard maple neck and walnut fretboard gave it bright tone, and a relatively generous box size of 13x7 1/2 x 2 3/4 overall generates respectable volume. Along the way I kept friction as low as possible by using the rollers, and a polished steel saddle on a walnut bridge. Tuning is as slick and responsive, no ratchety resistance, and the strings ought to stay happy. Speaking of strings, my go to is LMM GDG, and I sourced them from D’Addario, .024, .034, .044, round wound from a 120XL set. 

Action is low. A dime jams under the strings halfway between the nut and first fret. Fretboard is walnut and is dead flat, and the soundboard absolutely parallel to the neck. With the bright western red cedar box with tight joints tightly glued (no screws) it’s bright and lively to play. Effortless gentle picking or bare finger playing yields full bright sound even at super low levels. Normal relatively gentle picking is quite loud, with sustain for days, yet smartly responsive to the subtlest palm muting. Plugged in, the surface mount wicked bucker works a treat, doing exactly what I expect it to. 

The playing ergonomics are really nice. The guitar weighs 45 ounces, and balances right at the pickup. So it sits happily on my knee, the slightly tapered sides making the neck point up a little, and no tendency to drop. I can literally release the neck and slide my hand up or down, and it stays put. It’s only been a few days, but I’m settling in and enjoying the headless acoustic experience a bunch. For any small bodied acoustic/electric guitar, getting that balance point inside the box, where it’ll sit on the flat of your hand and not tip, changes everything. Think tight joints, and wood with good sonic velocity to keep things lively, and you’ll smile when you play. 

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Nice, very nice! That is a piece of art, you should be and are rightfully proud of your creation! Great job! Now make a video, want to hear it!

Just realized the pics I chose didn’t have the permanent bridge in place. 

(Thanks, Will for the kind words. A video is on my to do list.)

Unique clean lines very cool

That's really cool and innovative Bruce.   Thanks for sharing.  It's a beauty too.

Very well done sir! Did you groove the steel saddle pin for each string or is it smooth end to end?

It’s smooth end to end, polished stainless, a dowel pin. Were I thinking of using it to shred, I would’ve tried grooves, but thought for my style it would be ok smooth, and that made controlling string height and insuring smooth string pull over bridge.

Very nicely executed Bruce!

I've brainstormed and designed for a headless, but was never happy. Too complex as you say. This is functional simplicity. I like it!

Is the "roller block" wood?

The roller tailpiece is the tail end of the maple neck, slotted to accept the pulleys, and cross drilled to accept the axle. Much like a traditional block and tackle. The other part of the rig is a crossways oriented cutoff of the maple neck, drilled to accept the tuning heads and two string guide rollers that route the upper and lower strings from the tailpiece to the tuning heads. Aside from the tuning heads, nothing screws together. The axle pins are snug slip fit and trapped, and the entire structure glued up using reinforcing blocks as needed. 

Well thought out, and I like it alot. 

Zero fret I assume too. 

Other than perhaps a little more space around the tuner knobs, I may at some point "borrow" heavily from this! Nice!

Beautiful work all the way around Bruce! I never weigh in on how to build - starts too many bar fights - but you seem to want to maximize acoustic volume and mentioned you build your neck level to the body. If I read that right, I strongly suggest you add back angle to your repetoire. This has almost doubled the acoustic volume of my builds as well as improving playability. Anything from1.5 to 2 degrees makes a big difference. Even on all-electrics, it lets you keep the string height sweet and LOW - whether neck-thru or set-neck - while allowing a slimmer fingerboard height over the body without your pick or fingers contacting the box or pickup. Just my two cents but I learned it from Richie Kay and want to pay it forward. Now Imhave to look for your sound sample!

Brilliant.  I have been conceptualizing intriguing Tuner options, but your execution is exquisite.  I didn’t see the scale size you built, cause it looks long.  Absolutely a heirloom piece of art.

Mark -bone nut

Tim, 25 inch scale, CB Gitty walnut fretboard. 

Strings are D’Addario .044, .034, .024 tuned  LMM GDG

Someone also asked what the pulley block is made of. It is the maple neck tail end. The tuners and string guide rollers are also mounted on a maple block transverse to the tailpiece. It’s all braced and glued together, no screws anywhere except the anti rotation screws holding tuners, and serving as single point ground.


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